By Summer Carson
Eagle Contributing Writer
As you tuned into CNN this summer in an attempt to pick your favorite candidates for the November 2004 election, AU students were feverishly working on the campaign trail.
Will President George W. Bush prevail and become a two-term president, or will John Kerry sweep up like he did in the Democratic caucuses?
Nick Terzulli, former Student Confederation President, spent his summer working for the Republican National Convention in hopes for the re-election of President Bush. Terzulli worked as an intern in New York City for a sub-committee of the RNC, the Committee on Arrangements.
One of the best aspects of his job was the staff he worked with who included fellow college students between the ages of 19 and 22 from a variety of universities. Having been a part of two Congressional campaigns, Terzulli is no stranger to politics. However, he noted that organizing a convention differs greatly from the previous campaigns of which he has been a part. People never realize all the political and non-political dimensions involved in making necessary arrangements, said Terzulli.
He worked over 10 hours per day and he was frequently on the telephone making essential preparations to ensure that the RNC ran smoothly. Unlike being on the road for a campaign, his job required a coat and tie everyday. However, Terzulli has found a social balance during his work for the Republican National Convention. He believes the “work hard and play hard” mentality will be helpful in future careers. After graduation, he is considering pursuing a career in law.
Mike Iganamort, President of the AU College Republicans, is another active student politician. Iganamort spent his summer working for the 5th Congressional District in New Jersey in an effort to re-elect Congressman Scott Garrett.
He was involved in the hands-on work essential in all political campaigns. The high-intensity atmosphere was a setting which Iganamort not only enjoyed, but embraces. Whether it involved gathering research and compiling data for fundraising or gaining the support of new voters, he is made sure voters knew their candidate and their candidate knew them. Enhanced people skills, work ethic and multi-tasking abilities are all invaluable talents Iganamort gained working on this campaign; moreover, he speaks very highly of his candidate.
“Scott Garrett is the same person in Washington, DC that he is in New Jersey,” he said. “The voters know where he stands on the issues, and he doesn’t deviate from his principles for political expedience.”
As for future plans, Iganamort said his main focus is graduating from AU. He implied, however, that after he graduates, a career in politics is not unlikely. “If my work on various campaigns opens doors in the future, I would certainly take advantage of that,” he said.
Milla Savelieff, who is in the School of International Studies, worked for the Republican National Committee Headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio as Ethnic Community Liaison. Her responsibilities included cost research for ethnic newspaper ads, speaking with leaders within ethnic communities and attending ethnic community functions on behalf of her candidate, Senator George V. Voinovich.
As many students can attest, internships are great experience, but they don’t pay the bills. Savelieff notes one downside was the time constraint of working a paying job and not being able to work for the RNC as much as she would like. Still, she enjoyed interacting with the ethnic constituents and learning about their past experiences.
Although she has not always agreed with Senator Voinovich, she respects his dedication to his constituency and his willingness “to judge the issue, and not really partake in party politics.” Savelieff, who looks forward to working more in Washington’s political arenas, said she has learned the real value and importance of constituent support from this campaign and she is impressed by the dedication of Voinovich’s supporters.
“They really believe in the good work he is doing on the Hill,” she said. “I feel honored to be helping in facilitating those actions.”
Meanwhile on the Democrat Campaign Front, Ken Biberaj, a former Student Confederation President and recent AU graduate, had a position on the Kerry-Edwards Presidential Campaign. After impressively earning a Master’s degree from Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Biberaj joined the staff of Senator Kerry’s presidential campaign.
Biberaj has taken on quite a challenge working in the last Presidential Campaign’s state of voting controversy, Florida. He researches how President Bush’s policies have impacted various Florida constituencies and also works to inform them of the advantages to being under a Kerry Administration.
“The general atmosphere is very energetic, optimistic and exciting,” Biberaj said about the campaign. “The voters in Florida are excited for change.”
When asked about his candidates, he replied, “They bring an incredible amount of energy and hope that voters have been looking for in the campaign.” When asked what the best part of his job was, Biberaj said that “the feeling associated with being just a small part of such an incredible and powerful movement to change the direction of this country, and make it better than it is.”
Biberaj’s opinions and goals are likely to be shared by fellow past AU graduate, Andrew Block.
Block serves as Deputy Director of Advance for Teresa Heinz Kerry. When interviewed, Block was on the road as he had been for much of the summer, this time in Boston preparing for the Democratic National Convention. His duties included arriving at campaign destinations for Mrs. Heinz Kerry in advance to prepare and coordinate details of events such as who will be attending, when they will arrive and working with the secret service to ensure the safety of the Kerry and Heinz Kerry team.
Block said the campaign, whether on the road or at headquarters in Washington, has been a state of “organized chaos” and that it is “ninety-five percent good and five-percent bad, but never really that bad.” Block noted how the unpredicted rise of the Kerry campaign has taught him to “never give up.”
“She’s an amazing woman,” said Block, who spoke positively of the campaign and his interactions with Heinz-Kerry.
Block majored in Political Science and Foreign Policy while at AU and when asked about where his education and campaign experience will take him in the future he replied, “that will be decided on November 2nd.”
While these former AU students are models to follow, Corey Atkins is a current student working toward equally impressive credentials. A senior this year at AU, Atkins is double majoring in CLEG and Political Science. He spent last summer working on the John Edwards for President campaign and followed through with the presidential election this summer by working for the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in Boston. Atkins helped to plan, organize and do much necessary networking for the Democratic National Convention.
Atkins said he enjoyed the laid-back atmosphere but admits times became hectic. The perk to this job, according to Atkins, “was the amount of political superstars and big-wigs I got to rub elbows with.” He also learned that “money dominates in these things and that an effective campaign, whether you like it or not, cannot be waged without lots of it.” A harsh reality it is but a realistic mindset is sure to be a useful asset in Atkins future campaign endeavors.
He does not deny his own political ambitions after law or graduate school and said, “the main thing for me is being able to say that I made a difference for the better.”
November will surely be an interesting month these AU students. Regardless of the outcome, working on political campaigns alone will undoubtedly provide invaluable experience and skills necessary for success in the domain of politics or wherever else their futures may take them.